Cultural Diversity – Focus on the Importance of Tolerance

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”  – Friedrich Nietzsche

Multicultural communities possess a rich blend of cultural traditions from all over the world. The differences (or diversity) that come from people enrich cultures by bringing new ideas. The promotion of tolerance is key to managing diversity, and fundamental to human rights, and peace.

Tolerance helps us to coexist peacefully with people from different cultures, races and religions, different ages, backgrounds, gender, and sexual orientation. It is an attribute that helps in interpersonal relationships and in having more opportunities in education, business, and many other aspects of life.

As tolerance is initially learned and modeled at home, it is important for the parents or caretakers to teach children to respect differences. In fact when children go to school, their circle of friends is varied. As classrooms become increasingly diverse, so increases the need to tolerate differences.

According to UNESCO:

  1. Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication, and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference. It is not only a moral duty, it is also a political and legal requirement. Tolerance, the virtue that makes peace possible, contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.
  2. Tolerance is not concession, condescension or indulgence. Tolerance is, above all, an active attitude prompted by recognition of the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. In no circumstance can it be used to justify infringements of these fundamental values. Tolerance is to be exercised by individuals, groups and States.
  3. Tolerance is the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), democracy and the rule of law. It involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments.
  4. Consistent with respect for human rights, the practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one’s convictions. It means that one is free to adhere to one’s own convictions and accepts that others adhere to theirs. It means accepting the fact that human beings, naturally diverse in their appearance, situation, speech, behavior and values, have the right to live in peace and to be as they are. It also means that one’s views are not to be imposed on others.”

The presence of tolerance might not always be obvious, the list below shows signs of tolerance:

  • Absence of prejudicial language in descriptions of events and people.
  • Lack of racial, ethnic and gender abusive words or phrases.
  • Usage of inclusive NOT exclusive language.
  • Lack of bullying, harassment and teasing.

Intolerance often comes from ignorance, fear from a ‘perceived’ difference and is also associated with an exaggerated sense of self-worth and pride.

Patricia Evans published a book in 2002, Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You, which looked at how constant parental defining and invalidating produces ‘backward’ personalities in children who possess emotional deficiency and feel threatened by others who simply think differently to them. Since intolerance is the inability to accept differences in others, Evans might be pointing out an important contributing factor to intolerance.

Intolerance also breeds more intolerance among others, as children see, children do. Eliminating intolerance, starts with the individual, therefore as a parent, one should acknowledge the problem, possess an open-mindedness and willingness to learn, and make a commitment to change. Awareness, education and access to information are the keys.

The real diversity is the diversity of thought. – David Mamet

Ask yourself the following questions to evaluate your present situation:

  • Am I or my child a tolerant person?
  • Do I or my child stereotype people?
  • Do I or my child judge and reject people who are simply different?
  • Do I or my child blame my problems on others?

From the above, you will be able to honestly evaluate whether any necessary steps need to be taken. Many resources exist to show how tolerance can be learned, taught or increased.

In today’s world, your child’s success is strongly related to the ability of understanding, respecting, and appreciating others, this can only be achieved through tolerance.

“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” – G. K. Chesterton

This article appears in Miscellany of topics 1 ebook, click here for more information.

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